views updated

Sarmatia (särmā´shə), ancient district between the Vistula River and the Caspian Sea, gradually conquered and occupied by the Sarmatians [Lat. Sarmatae] or Sauromatians (a term used by Herodotus and now used by archaeologists for early Sarmatians) from the 6th cent. BC through the 4th cent. AD The term is vague and is also used to refer to the territory along the Danube and across the Carpathians where the Sarmatians were later driven by the Huns. The Sarmatians, who by c.200 BC controlled the territory W of the Don River, spoke an Indo-Iranian language and were a nomadic pastoral people related to the Scythians (see Scythia), whom they displaced in the Don region. The main divisions were the Rhoxolani, the Iazyges, and the Alans or Alani. They came into conflict with the Romans but later allied themselves with Rome, acting as buffers against the Goths. They were scattered by or assimilated with the Goths and then the Huns by the 6th cent. AD Graves of warrior women among Sarmatian burial mounds has led to speculation that they may have given rise to the myth of the Amazons.

See study by T. Sulimirski (1970).